A shocking new study suggests that males with type 2 diabetes are twice more likely to suffer from tooth loss than those without the illness.
The 20-year study was presented at the International Association of Dental Research conference held in Barcelona last week.
It followed more than 38,000 males from 1986 to 2006 to examine connections between diabetes and tooth loss or gum disease.
The study was carried out in Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, USA and was presented by one of the four authors M. Jimenez at the conference.
At the beginning of the trial all the participants had all their own teeth and were showing no signs of periodontitis (an advanced stage of gum disease).
Over the course of the study, 11,478 new cases of tooth loss were reported by the participants, and 3,589 new cases of periodontitis.
Eliminating other risk factors for gum disease such as age, race, smoking habits, BMI, alcohol consumption, physical activity and fruit and vegetable intake were taken into consideration, but type 2 diabetes was found to be the common factor which increased tooth loss by half.
Chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter said: ‘These results are quite shocking, although we have known for many years that diabetics are more likely to suffer from gum disease, the extent of the increase in such a large study is surprising.
‘Recent studies have also shown a potential link between the presence of gum disease and development of diabetes so this is a particularly interesting area. Numerous studies in the past have shown a link between oral health and other serious illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, stroke and arthritis, and this study highlights again the importance of looking after our teeth properly. It isn’t just about having a nice smile; it is about overall body health, too.’
Diet was also found to be a contributing factor to the increased gum disease.
Men with diabetes whose total fruit and vegetable intake was below average were twice as likely to report periodontitis compared to men with the same fruit and vegetable intake but without diabetes.
The Foundation emphasises good oral health-care and preventive dentistry as the best way to keep your teeth for life, and look after your oral and overall health.
Dr Carter said: ‘Brushing your teeth for two minutes twice a day with fluoride toothpaste is one of the most successful ways to maintain healthy teeth. Combine this with visiting your dentist regularly and cutting down on how often you have sugary foods and drinks in your diet, and you will be helping yourself greatly.
‘It is also important to clean between your teeth with floss, interdental brushes or tape once a day, as brushing alone only cleans around two thirds of the mouth.’
If you are concerned about your oral health contact the Dental Helpline for free, confidential and independent advice. The helpline is staffed by fully qualified dental nurses and is available from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday on 0845 063 1188 or via firstname.lastname@example.org.